GROTON -- Saturday night was a somber one for seniors Sarah Spang, Riley Rogers, Leanne Mueller and Alexa Busser, who lost in their last match as Lady Crusaders.
Spang contributed a team-high eight kills in the match, but it was not enough as Groton-Dunstable fell to Marlboro in the opening round of the Division 2 Central Mass. volleyball district tournament in straight games, 25-14, 25-19, 25-22.
"Mueller and Spang have been playing strong for us all year," said Groton-Dunstable head coach Lisa LaPierre. "Spang hasn't been hitting that well in the last few games. She came alive today and really kept us alive in the sets."
The Lady Crusaders had a season to remember in which they captured their first league title in school history. Groton-Dunstable finishes the regular season with an overall record of 14-7.
Marlboro came out of the opening gates firing on all cylinders, knowing the odds were stacked against them as the lower seed on the road.
The Panthers kept a firm grasp on the lead from the opening serve. Groton-Dunstable knotted the game up at 8-8 on a side-out by the Panthers' Ashley Beauchamp. The Lady Crusaders little two-point run would be short-lived, as Marlborough strung together some solid scoring of their own. The key player in game one for Marlborough was Jamie Zompa.
Zompa's serving spearheaded the Panthers offense's 10-0 run with a couple aces down the stretch. Groton-Dunstable battled valiantly at the end of the game. Spang elevated and hammered the ball to the hardwood at match point to keep the Crusaders alive, 24-14. Marlboro went on to cruise and take game one 25-14.
"(Marlborough) had a strong middle hitter in Ashley Beauchamp and Jamie Zoppa. Her serves were hard to read coming over the top of the net," said LaPierre.
The Lady Crusaders showed some promise at the beginning of game, Spang planted a wicked spike over the net to give Groton-Dunstable a 2-0 lead. And then there were signs of life in the latter portion of game two, when junior outside hitter Sarah Georges launched a bullet to the floor for a service ace to cut the Panthers' lead to four at 20-16. That was as close as Groton-Dunstable would get though. Marlborough's Anna Valente pummeled an ace over the net to take game two, 25-19.
Despite falling in the second game, the Crusaders enjoyed some solid defense from senior setter Rose O'Malley.
Game three was a see-saw battle from the opening serve. Groton-Dunstable knew that their postseason dreams were slowly fading away and battled back from as much as three-points down to start the match. The Panthers pounced out to a 6-3 lead to begin the final game. Groton-Dunstable capitalized on some mishit balls by the Panthers and tied the game at 8-8.
Groton-Dunstable and Marlborough found themselves tied at four different points in the match. The Lady Crusaders enjoyed strong play from junior libero Katrina Kangwijaya in game three. Kangwijaya's hustle assisted Groton-Dunstable's unbridled efforts to push a game four. Selena Giroux served up an ace to finish off the Lady Crusaders in straight games, 25-22.
Giroux registered 12 kills for the Panthers in the win, while Beauchamp had 11. Mueller turned in five kills in the loss for the Lady Crusaders.
"I told them it was a tough draw for the first round but they played hard. We accomplished a lot of things, returning only four players from last year's team," said LaPierre. "We won the league and had a lot of positive things that came out of this year. One game doesn't make or break what we have accomplished this season."